Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones – which one is better?

Headphones have a wide range of them available in the markets. The most popular types that people have to choose from in headphones are open-back headphones and closed-back headphones.

But even within these two options, there arises a range of products in the market. This variety of options can make it a difficult choice for customers who do not know a lot about these headphones. Thus, it is important for you to know the basics about these headphones.

Through this article, we bring to you a comparison of open-back headphones and closed-back headphones. We try to find which one is suitable for whom and if there is a better option between the two. In doing so, we will also take a detailed look at their features, pros, and cons.

But before we delve into that, let us look at their definitions and understand how each type of headphone works.

Open-back headphones – what are they?

best Open Back Headphones
Sennheiser Pro Audio HD 600 Open Back Professional Headphone

Open-back headphones are the type of headphones that are, as the name suggests, open which allows air to pass through the ear cups as well as the headband. The air goes to the speaker unit this way.

This means that pressure does not build up inside the headphones and that does not affect your listening experience. Thus, open-back headphones sound more natural and “airy” as compared to other headphone types.

How do they work?

Open-back headphones come with built-in gaps for air to free flow through them even though they are similar to closed-back headphones in terms of design.

There is no pressure in these headphones and they encourage natural and critical listening. This design makes them incredibly lightweight as well.

A brief history of open back headphones

The first open-back headphones were released in the year 1968 by Sennheiser and the model was named Sennheiser’s HD 414 headphones. They were less boxy when it came to the soundstage and were lightweight with a low-key design as compared to closed-back headphones.

They became very popular due to this portable and comfortable design. Later, more popular brands started making these headphones and they became mainstream, eventually entering markets worldwide.

Sound quality

These headphones provide an improved sound reproduction no doubt, but this comes at the expense of isolation features. Open-back headphones do not provide great noise isolation due to their airy designs which makes it very easy for ambient noises to leak into the sound stage and distract a listener.

However, this lack of isolation makes it perfect for outside usage as it keeps risk factors in check. These headphones also provide excellent surround sound features which makes them a very popular choice.

Comfort level

Comfort is a very important factor for headphones. In buying open-back headphones, you are investing in comfort. With less pressure ad an airy design, you are freeing your ears from a lot of pressure as well as heat build-up which helps you enjoy longer sessions with these headphones on.

The grills on the back vent the drivers as well as your ears which is absent in closed-back headphones. This is why people are comfortable wearing open-back headphones for long periods while they feel like taking a break from closed-back headphones every now and then.

Weight and portability

In open-back headphones, you use very little material and padding which also makes this type of headphones lighter than other designs. You get a lot of extra materials on closed-back headphones which is why they are bulkier.

This makes closed-back headphones less portable but gives open-back headphones a great advantage over them in terms of portability.

Driver options

You get more driver options in open-back headphones. Many manufacturers have been successful in incorporating both, Planar as well as Electrostatic drivers in these headphones which give them a better performance.

On the other hand, most times, closed-back they still use dynamic drivers which are average. But the choice is greater when it comes to open-back headphones.


  • Good for critical listening
  • High-quality audio facility
  • Great for casual listening
  • Safer to use outside due to less noise isolation
  • Suitable for gaming


  • Not very portable for people on the go
  • Does not excel at noise isolation

Closed back headphones – what are they?

Best Closed back headphones
AKG K52 Closed-Back Headphone

Closed-back headphones are so popular because of the way they provide their soundstage. Their design is closed and there is no airflow like open-back headphones. This may sound uncomfortable, but it is not and this design actually lets the music take center stage.

There are a significant number of features that closed-back headphones provide that are not so defined in open-back headphones.

 How do they work?

Closed-back headphones are, as we have already mentioned and as the name suggests, built in a closed-up design. The design is sealed in a way that sound does not escape from it. In a similar way, outside ambient noises are also not allowed to enter the headphones.

They are chunkier than open-back headphones but provide amazing noise isolation due to this feature of theirs. 

A brief history of closed-back headphones

Closed-back headphones were mainly used in the military and by radio or telephone operators before the year 1937. The first closed-back headphones for consumer purposes were introduced by Beyerdynamic in the form of the model called the DT 48 headphones.

They instantaneously became popular and eventually, more and more brands started manufacturing these headphones. With eventual improvements and the addition of more and more features, these headphones have come a long way since then in the markets.

Sound quality

Closed-back headphones have a reputation for providing good quality sound. However, if you invest in a good brand, the sound quality remains the same no matter what type of headphones you buy between the two.

While open-back headphones have good bass quality, they are not as thumping as the bass in closed-back headphones. So in this field, closed-back headphones certainly win. This is as the air trapped in the closed-back headphones helps with acoustics and provides a better soundstage.

Comfort level

The great noise isolation of closed-back headphones comes at the cost of comfort for many. These headphones use a lot of padding in the head and ear regions to passively cancel ambient noises which makes them bulky as well as heavy, thus reducing comfort.

Moreover, closed-back can lead to a lot of heat and pressure build-up inside the ear-cups which is why wearers usually feel like taking breaks from their continuous usage.

Weight and portability

As such, most closed-back headphones will be designed in a way that you can carry them wherever you want by wearing them on your neck when you are not using them. However, you can invest in foldable headbands and better form factors for more portability.

Noise isolation options

This is the best part of closed-back headphones. Noise isolation, with good padding, is impressive in this kind of headphones, especially with the earcups that not only sit comfortably on your ears but also black a lot of ambient noise.


  • Great for recording artists
  • Very little sound leakage
  • Superior bass quality
  • Impressive noise-isolation options
  • Improves concentration and focus on work


  • Relatively unsafe outside due to noise isolation
  • A little less portable than open-back headphones

Now that you have an idea about open-back and closed-back headphones and how they work, we hope that you can make an appropriate decision as to which one is suitable for your needs. We hope this article was helpful to you. Good luck shopping!

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Mayank Patel Author At Gadgetrates

About Mayank Patel

Mayank is a tech product expert at GadgetsRates. He is frequently written about computers, laptops, smartphones, and other gadgets.

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